Evers vetoes Republican-authored $250 million income tax cut

Evers vetoes Republican-authored $250 million income tax cut

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Wisconsin-Tax Cuts

Gov. Tony Evers vetoes Assembly Bill 910, a tax cut bill that did not meet his spending priorities, as local Democrat lawmakers and others look on, during a press conference Feb. 26 at Lincoln Elementary School in Wauwatosa.

MADISON — Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a Republican-authored $250 million income tax bill on Wednesday while visiting an elementary school in Wauwatosa, arguing that the Legislature should instead back his plan to spend more on education.

Evers proposed spending $250 million on K-12 schools, with $130 million to reduce property taxes, but Republicans ignored his plan. They said increasing funding for schools will be part of the debate over the next state budget in 2021.

“Look, I get it,” Evers said of the rejection of his school plan. “Republicans are more concerned about the perception of giving a Democratic governor a win than getting things done. Politics plain and simple.”

Evers vetoed the tax cut bill, the 12th he has vetoed since taking office, in the school library surrounded by Democratic lawmakers.

The tax cut plan Evers vetoed would have cost $392 million. The nearly $250 million income tax cut would have sent an average of $106 back to every qualifying taxpayer in an election year. It also reduced business taxes by nearly $45 million and trimmed state debt by $100 million.

Republicans accused Evers of being the one playing politics.

Rep. John Nygren, co-chair of the Legislature’s budget committee, said he was “greatly disappointed” with the veto. He said he equated to raising taxes. Sen. David Craig tweeted that Evers “threw your tax cut in the trash” and “made it very clear he would rather spend all the tax money the state over-collected than return it where it belongs – with you, the taxpayer!”

Politics aside, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said in a statement: “Governor Evers should have signed the bill that returns surplus dollars back to the taxpayers and pays down debt. Thanks to good budgeting and a growing economy, Wisconsin’s families should reap in our economic windfall. But for the second time this session, the governor is refusing to help middle and lower income taxpayers in Wisconsin and is intent on increasing government spending.”

Two roads diverged

Evers and the Legislature put forward the two plans in the wake of news that Wisconsin is expected to have a $620 million budget surplus by mid-2021. Republicans pushed for the tax cut, saying the higher-than-expected tax collections should be returned to people who paid them. Evers said the surplus instead should be tapped to help schools pay for addressing mental health and special education needs, cut property taxes, send more aid to the most rural schools and have the state provide two-thirds funding.

“We cannot ignore the fact that our kids and our educators and our schools continue to be stretched too thin,” Evers said. “I don’t care who gets the credit, I just know the people of our state deserve elected officials who get things done and funding our schools and reducing property taxes should be something we agree on.”

Evers said he hoped that he and lawmakers could work together on a compromise that would spend more on schools, cut taxes and reduce state debt.

“I am hopeful Republican and Democratic leadership in the Legislature will come to the table to get this done for the people of our state,” he said in his veto message.

The GOP tax cut bill passed the Senate 19-14 with all Republicans in support and Democrats against last week.

In the Assembly it passed 65-34, with two Democrats joining all Republicans in support. That’s just one vote short of the 66 that would be needed to override the veto, but the Assembly does not have plans to meet again this year, although it has the option to in May.

For a veto attempt on this bill to begin, it has to start in the Senate, since that’s where the bill originated, a spokeswoman from Vos’ office explained in an email. To achieve two-thirds majority in the Senate, three out of 14 Democrats would have to vote to overrule the governor, assuming Republicans continue voting to pass it.

Four previous attempts to override Evers vetoes have failed in the Assembly. Even if they were to succeed, three Democrats would have to vote along with Republicans, assuming all Republicans vote to overrule Evers.

More vetoes from Evers are expected in the coming days on bills Republicans passed last week that he’s voiced objections to. That includes several anti-crime measures that are projected to increase the prison population so much the state would have to build two new facilities.

Journal Times Reporter Adam Rogan contributed to this story.

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